How to Get Rid of Moss in Your Lawn
Why do you have moss? Many people think that moss is moving in, taking over, killing their grass. Big Bad Moss. On the contrary, moss is simply filling in places where the grass won't grow. More than likely, the reason you have moss is that you have less than ideal growing conditions for grass in those areas.
Some of the factors that invite moss into your lawn are:
Heavy shade - even shade grass needs some sun. Deep shade will cause it to thin out and die.
Low fertility - moss loves low fertility.
Acidic soil - a low pH will hamper your grass, but is very appealing to moss
Compacted soil - your grass' roots can't grow into the soil if it's compacted. But moss doesn't really have roots, just tiny filaments that anchor it to the dirt. It absorbs moisture through its "leaves."
Constant moisture - drainage problems or simply overwatering in shade areas encourages moss growth, but can cause disease problems for grass.
No air circulation - poor air circulation also causes disease problems for grass.
What you can do to restore grass to those areas:
Get rid of the moss - This is easily done with a steel rake. Just rake it up and throw it away. "Moss killer" will kill the moss, but unless you do the following to restore good growing conditions for your grass, the moss will just come back.
Correct the shade problem - This is the kicker. If you cannot correct the shade problem, you may not be able to grow grass in those areas. Sometimes, simply pruning surrounding vegetation and low hanging tree limbs will create dappled sunlight that will work fine for shade grass like fescue. Pruning will help with air circulation, also. But if your deep shade is caused by buildings or hills or something you can't prune, you're out of luck on the grass. Fortunately, there are many beautiful ground covers that grow well in the shade, and there are several other alternatives, which may appeal to you more than mowing grass! See our page "The Dreaded Shade Areas" for ideas.
Do a soil test to check for low fertility and acidity - according to the results, apply the necessary lime to raise the pH level, and appropriate fertility.
Aerate if necessary - compacted soil is the result of air pockets being forced out of the soil either by flooding or by heavy traffic. Soil needs pockets in it for proper air, water and nutrient exchange. You can rent a core aerator or use a liquid aeration product. At GreenGrass, we offer a liquid aeration product called GreenAer, which is part of our regular lawn care program.
Improve drainage if necessary - areas in the shade dry more slowly than those in the sun, so be careful not to overwater (unless, of course, it's 111° outside...) If you have real drainage problems that result in areas which constantly hold standing water, you will have to address those issues. If a drainage problem is just caused by compaction, the aeration will help.
Seed the areas with fescue in the fall. Fescue is a cool season grass, and its growing season starts in the fall. The best time to seed fescue is late September to mid-October. All fescue should be overseeded every year to keep it thick and healthy. Our climate in Oklahoma is really too hot for fescue, so you are likely to lose some of it each year, especially in 100 degree weather! See our seeding fescue page for more info!
Wait a Minute! I LIKE moss! How do I get some?
Moss can be lush and beautiful and looks right at home next to ferns! Be sure you have conditions conducive to moss growth as outlined above. Partial to full shade is a must for most mosses. It's best to find some moss somewhere else and pull up a patch of it (find one growing in conditions similar to yours.) Scratch up your bare dirt, wet it, and press the moss into it. Some small, light rocks on top will hold it in place. Keep it moist until it's attached (tug on it lightly to be sure it doesn't come up.)
If you can't find any local moss, there are several websites where you can order it, like Moss Acres and Mountain Moss. You can even buy beautiful stones containing moss and make a little desk or coffee table garden - check out Moss & Stone Gardens.
Want to grow moss on rocks, pavers, or flowerpots?
Marie Iannotti from About.com offers the following Moss Recipe:
2 cups buttermilk or plain yogurt
1 to 1 1/2 cups of chopped up moss, either fresh or dried
Mix until creamy and spreadable. If it's too thick, add a little water. If too thin, add some more moss. Let the mixture sit for a day or two to start the process. Then, paint it onto the surface where you want moss. It may take 6 weeks before you see moss, and you may see mold before that, so be patient!